I've seen a few straggling butterflies out on the skies. One can't be too careful just on a fly to the studio, with the wind, the webs and obstructions. We know well the obstructions of which I speak, dear butterflies, the loathsome machines designed by humans known as automobiles. These days more butterflies are lost on the windshields of those vehicles than to the several mouths of traditional predators.
A fly butterfly can't be too careful, and we're spreading the word: Stay off the roads!
And we're putting the word out on another fly rap. I've got some cats along to read butterfly philosophy. This week is butterfly literacy awareness week and all the fliest flies have been tuning in to readings.
The cats have a dialogue they are going to read about imagination:
"Sister and Mother and diviner love/And of the sisterhood of the living dead.
"Most near, most clear, and of the clearest bloom," words. Imagination. Where do the two meet? In the mind. The meeting's a fashioning, fashioning's the art. Art's fashioning is a trick made of the senses in the mind to describe a thing beyond them.
"Like paintings or music, when we put the colors, the notes, the words together a certain way we sense something without words. We use words to think beyond the words themselves, to think not of the terms of art but of the things themselves that are described.
"In this manner truly are we butterfly-like. For who else makes words-like-a-butterfly? With words-like-a-butterfly do we make of ourselves more than plain things with wings. We make concepts, describing our qualities in nonphysical terms. But the concepts themselves are made of the physical muscle of mouth and mind, so the division between physical and nonphysical is unclear.
"There is the word, penalty, and there is its practice, which is wholly different. What a penalty is to one who speaks it is nothing of what it is to one who faces its execution.
"How many butterflies do you know have been penalized for their ignorance, who flapping noiselessly up on the breeze along with the pollen came under a draft and were swept over a highway, and were by the force of an instant, by an automobile, no more?
"When cats become butterflies they lose their sense. They talk with their words-like-a-butterfly and say 'Now that we're butterflies we realize even that thing in which we waited as caterpillars, time, is an illusion, likewise the framework of this reality, words-like-a-
butterfly, passed on from the dead.' The only true knowledge is recollection not of the simple life but of the life before life, which entails a thing beyond the insect self, beyond data, beyond reason, namely, a soul.
"From the soul springs the voice, and by the voice words, and by virtue of this broadcast words and the voice. Those describe the sense without words, the self-knowledge that underlies butterfly influence. It's instinct, some say, or it's in your head.
"It seems confusing, and that's a problem many butterflies face. They look to the example of humans, who with their words-like-a-human have contemplated such mysteries for thousands of years. When faced with the paradox of life on a planet that moves in a seemingly endless void, humans, butterflies have found, turn inward. They turn to self-expression, often to a mild celebration of the basics of their humanity.
"Butterflies have been less introspective, seeming spectators to the unfolding drama of other butterfly lives. We could all be characters, they say, phonies -- even those of us who wish other cats would be real. Learning what it is to be the other is the mystery.
"That mystery's ours, we've learned, like the effort to preserve the mystery of birth, life, with the knowledge that we should inevitably fail given the second mystery, death. Between the two is the framework into which the moments of our lives are woven, time, and in which lay the secrets of our existence, characters who populate our story, lovers we entitle to ourselves, to whom we feel conjoined on this otherwise solitary quest from nothing to nothing, dust to dust.
"If we can catch it, we're told, before it is too late, we are to savor the first of those mysteries.
"Love alone, the poet wrote, outstrips time.
"All things bend to that progress, to an effort not "to leave a wilderness," not even one in the mind.
"What we've saved for later is an idea of it, a notion of the future that's never panned out. Sweeter than reality is the idea of it, bittersweet is the memory of what could have been. The words tell it all ..."
So I guess that would mean, remember me not by the physical sound of my words but by the sound of them in your head.
I'm Metamorphoses, signing off. "Brother, the password and the plans of our city are safe with/me; never through me/shall you be overcome."
The voice, I address, "Unreal, give back to us what once you gave:/The imagination that we spurned and crave."
Quoted verses are from "Conscientious Objector" by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and a poem by Wallace Stevens whose title is the column's same. Paul Tharp is a first-year law student. Reach him with any questions, comments at email@example.com.
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